TRISH DESEINE packs her FAVOURITE COOKBOOKS for some escapist inspiration on holiday …
With time, light and the season’s colourful ingredients on your side, summer is the time for sending your same-old cooking repertoire on holiday in search of excitement and inspiration. Just as summer romances (let’s not think of those September divorce paper figures) are fuelled by romantic novels when our toes are in the sand and our blowdries turn into beachy waves, miraculously bypassing the brillo-pad frizz stage, now is the perfect time to take a long look at some of the hottest cookbooks from faraway countries and cuisines.
For most of us food-literate folk, the likes of dukkah, freekeh, sumac and labneh have become part of our newly appropriated culinary language and as we chuck a pack of loose pomegranate seeds (so handy – no more stained fingers or pink splashes on the ceiling) into our supermarket trolley, their thousand and one nights of eastern promise has definitely worn off a little since we first clapped our eyes on a giant “jewelled” Avoca meringue. Need new foodie escapist dreams? Don’t go east, or Nordic north – go west!
Even though constant moving has forced me to curb my cookbook habit considerably, I still cannot pack the lightest overnight bag without popping a couple of cookbooks in there for bedtime reading. Over the past year or so, I found the new titles I simply could not resist buying had themselves a magic carpet power to take my imagination and my tastebuds on some rather wonderful trips.
Thanks to superstar chef René Redzepi’s fun online daily dispatches from his Noma pop-up on a beach in Tulum, Mexico, we can almost imagine the taste of the abundant, fabulously exotic ingredients he helps us discover each day. Biting into the cutest mini-avocado you have ever seen, he exclaims with an unapologetic giggle, “Yes! You can eat the skin! It’s the best avocado you will probably never taste!” Well, René, no hard feelings, because thankfully, I have the magnificent Hartwood cookbook to fall back on for my Mexican dreaming.
Hartwood was the brainchild of Chef Eric Werner and his wife Mya Henry who decided to pack up their New York lives and make a new home on the Yucatan peninsula. It’s the place René Redzepi “dreamed about” so much he decided to make his own version of the super-relaxed (no need for shoes) wood-fired cooking, beach-shack style restaurant. The book’s dreamy images are by world renowned photographer duo Gentl and Hyers and words by Bon Appetit’s editor at large, Christine Muhlke. And the food? Well you might be pushed to find Wahoo fish, fresh Horchata or banana leaves down your local Centra, but the founding principles of Hartwood’s cooking – lots of tasty free range pork, marinated and/or cooked slowly with tons of spices, chillis and aromates before a quick turn on the barbecue, and accompanied by the best chilled beers – will work just as well in Irish suburbia as they do in a Mexican jungle. You’ll be grand. Just take off your socks and shoes and let the Mezcal do the rest. My other far-flung cookbook favourites from the past few years are as follows:
Gjelina. Cooking from Venice, California by Travis Lett (Chronicle)
“Gjelina epitomizes grain-and-vegetable-centric, globally inspired cuisine. It’s also the place to be in a city of hot spots” says the blurb, and it was certainly enough to have this home cook dying to try the baby radishes with black olive and anchovy aioli and the grilled chicories with crispy fried eggs and bacon vinaigrette.
Everything I want to Eat. Sqirl and the New California Cooking by Jessica Koslow (Abrams)
The photography and design of this lovely, mad book had me hooked at first flick–through. Koslow opened Sqirl in LA in 2011 as a jam company and soon expanded into a café serving breakfast and lunch, closing at 4pm each day. Customers, she writes, “begin their days with an almond milk cappuccino or a fresh-pressed turmeric tonic. They stop by for lunch and order a wedge of daily quiche, sorrel pesto rice bowl with fixings, or maybe some kabbouleh. In the afternoon they come for our pillow soft Valrhona fleur de sel cookies or the malva pudding cakes with oozy insides and crystallized crusts.” I need all of these. Now.
Heritage by Sean Brock (Artisan Books)
A multi prize-winning, monument of a book, (like the chef himself, whose elaborately tattooed forearms grace the front cover) celebrating and redefining the cooking of the American South. Many of the recipes will resonate with an Irish palate with ingredients easily tweaked and even grown at home in our own gardens, or foraged in our countryside. Try the cornmeal dusted snapper with bread and butter courgettes and red
pepper sauce, or watermelon and red onion salad with lettuce, pickled shrimp and jalapeno vinaigrette.
Noma-style planted radishes
Thanks to René Redzepi for the inspiration! You can ramp up the flavour of the cheese by adding blue cheese or ripe camembert and the soil with smoked paprika or chilli.
For 6 (40 minutes preparation)
A dozen or so radishes, washed, tailed, tops and leaves intact
150g fresh goats’ cheese
2 tbsps crème fraiche
2-3 tbsps fresh, chopped herbs – mint, chervil, dill, tarragon, chives
2 slices dark rye bread
5-6 toasted hazelnuts or walnuts, chopped
Salt and pepper.
1. Whip the cheese and cream. Mix through the herbs and season with salt and pepper.
2. Toast the bread, break it up into uneven crumbs and fry until crispy in the butter. Season with salt and pepper and mix in the hazelnuts.
3. Fill a small bowl (or a flowerpot lined with cling film) with the cheese mixture, plant the radishes (serve any leftovers on the side for extra dipping) and cover the surface of the bowl with the edible soil. Serve immediately.
Gjelina-style radishes with black olive, garlic and anchovy mayo
Travis Lett suggests leaving the leaves on the radishes and chomping them both together but if you don’t have access to fresh ones, perhaps stick with tradition. Other raw vegetables would be delicious and pretty beside pink radishes.
For 6 (15 minutes preparation)
6-8 good black olives, drained, pitted and chopped
4 whole salted anchovies, halved, boned, rinsed and finely chopped
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
3 tbsps mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, crushed to a purée
Salt and pepper.
1. Mix all the ingredients together and serve alongside the raw vegetables.
Sean Brock-style watermelon, shrimp, lettuce and onion salad
Okay, so we’re are missing the pickled shrimp from the original here, but I’m sure you could find some mild pickled herring or even substitute some pickled vegetables for a little acidic bite in this easy, summery salad.
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped very finely
1 small, red chilli, seeded and chopped finely (use it all or as much as you and your guests can bear)
Grated zest and juice of a lime
1½ tsp sugar
1½ tsp salt
150ml mild tasting vegetable oil
100ml olive oil
1 small lettuce, leaves separated, washed and spun
1 small ripe watermelon or half a large one, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 small red onion, sliced very finely
18 large cooked prawns or shrimp.
1. Put all the ingredients of the vinaigrette into a mini blender and pulse until smooth. Pour the oil in little by little until emulsified.
2. Toss the lettuce in the vinaigrette, mix through the watermelon and shrimps, garnish with the onion and serve.
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